BACKGROUND: Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is associated with poorer neurodevelopment. It is, however, unclear which factors besides surgery affect neurodevelopment in preterm-born children surviving NEC.
AIMS: We determined whether time to full enteral feeding (FEFt) and post-NEC complications after NEC were associated with neurodevelopment.
STUDY DESIGN: Prospective observational cohort study.
SUBJECTS: Two to three year old preterm-born children who survived NEC (Bells stage ≥ 2). We categorized children in two groups, one group shorter and equal and one group longer than the group's median FEFt. Post-NEC complications included recurrent NEC and/or post-NEC stricture.
OUTCOME MEASURES: Bayley Scales of Infants and Toddler Development III (Bayley-III) and Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Associations between Bayley-III and CBCL scores with FEFt and Post-NEC complications were determined using linear regression analyses, adjusted for severity of illness and potential confounders.
RESULTS: We included 44 children, median gestational age of 27.9 [IQR: 26.7-29.3] weeks, birth weight 1148 [IQR: 810-1461] grams. Median FEFt after NEC was 20 [IQR: 16-30] days. Median follow-up age was 25.7 [IQR: 24.8-33.5] months. FEFt > 20 days was associated with lower cognitive and lower motor composite scores of the Bayley-III (B: -8.6, 95% CI -16.7 to -0.4, and B: -9.0, 95% CI, -16.7 to -1.4). FEFt was not associated with CBCL scores. Post-NEC complications (n = 11) were not associated with Bayley-III scores nor with CBCL scores.
CONCLUSIONS: Prolonged FEFt after NEC in preterm-born children surviving NEC is associated with lower cognitive and lower motor composite scores at the age of 2-3 years. These results show the importance of limiting the duration of the nil per mouth regimen if and when possible.